Customers are little monsters. The problem is they’re both powerful and unpredictable – like a monkey with a bomb. Just what exactly do they want? Do they even know? Companies nervously throw billions of pounds into things like focus groups, market research and panel data – seemingly to no avail. Remember New Coke?

Luckily, there exist a handful of silver bullets – concise, direct and extremely effective solutions, known only to an exclusive selection of people, of whom one is Apple. Some years ago, Apple were nearly bankrupt; now, they have more money than God. With a phone whose reception cuts out when you use your hand to hold it, this is arguably not because of their product quality; and it’s inarguably not because of competitive pricing. The reason for Apple’s success may, therefore, be these silver bullets – non-conscious influences used to nudge customers towards making a sale.

Scarcity is a heuristic (a mental “rule-of-thumb”) where people infer greater value from something in limited supply. This is for a number of reasons like basic economics, as well as building status and identity – demonstrably, there exists an app costing $999.99 which does nothing but show that the owner can afford it. Apple used scarcity very shrewdly with its iPhone 3G. They made sure the stock of iPhones was far exceeded by demand on the day of release, and in fact produced pre-printed “out-of-stock” signs, rather than actually making extra units! Making the product scarce in this way increased its value and sent customers to stores in droves.

Social proof is a heuristic where “if other people are doing it, it must be good”. When Apple used scarcity to increase the iPhone’s value, people queued for hours outside stores to make sure they could get one; this made it into the news and media. The consequent observed social proof of people queuing in the early hours to buy an iPhone increased its perceived value even more, driving even more traffic there. Furthermore, a degree of conformity is induced in-store by there being almost more “Specialists” than there are customers. People have an innate urge to “follow the crowd”, and by having so many Apple disciples in store, customers find it hard to resist.

Liking – we are more easily influenced by people we like. Apple employs trendy, friendly, young dudes (and dudettes) who are generally quite attractive. This increases compliance and sales. Additionally, staff smile at customers – something that increases bar tips by around 140%. When we see someone smiling, the “smile” mirror-neurons in our brains are activated, which puts us in a good mood and lowers our resistance to persuasion.

Reciprocity is where people are more likely to make a purchase having been given a prior free gift. Apple provides free advice and conversation to customers, and there is an area for people to plug in their iPhones for free. As one sign put it, “Only the Apple store gets you up and running before you leave”. This degree of personalisation, and the variety of free services, leaves customers indebted and more likely to buy; as well as increasing liking and positive affect.

Authority is a tool of persuasion wherein people comply when the source of the request is seen as trustworthy and credible. Apple use this extremely well to position their products as the epitome of the industry, which convinces customers that a purchase is the correct action to take. The employees are named “Specialists” and work behind the “Genius Bar”, and there are lectures and business workshops openly taking place in-store.

Emotions. Hedonic consumption is no secret in marketing, and yet Apple are miles ahead when it comes to applying the power of emotions. Their adverts use emotions to get noticed and remembered, and to sell the experiential benefits of the product. For example, one advert has a grandfather using his iPhone to see his grandson’s face for the first time. And once customers are in the store, this emotional engagement continues. The posters on the walls, and the products laid out for use, all depict emotional scenes of family bonding, play and childlike excitement; the products are described as “magical” with “even more to love”; and the Beatles are strumming away in the background. These products are arguably not for children, and yet pictures and videos from films like Toy Story surround customers, and products are laid out with Angry Birds ready to play. Apple cleverly market these products as a connection to the emotionally-laden play of our youth.

Representativeness says, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” As discussed, we make heuristic inferences about the world around us. If you want your customers to value your product, then you all you have to do is make it representative of something valuable. Apple achieve this using fashion, religion and art. Customers make pilgrimages to the Apple flagship stores, which are located amongst stores like Karen Millen and Ted Baker, imitating the high-end value of their products. In-store, iPhones are sold alongside designer-label laptop bags and Dr Dre’s exclusive Beats headphones. Posters adorn the walls like artwork, and the iPhones and iPads – themselves sleek, black Kubrick-esque monoliths – are displayed on wooden altars as the focus of the store. The store in London has a large glass staircase like the V&A museum, and in New York a glass cube architecture mimics the Louvre – and in Paris (guess what?), there is an Apple store inside the Louvre.